According to the latest figures from government, just 41.4% of care providers in England have used the £600 million Infection Control Fund to pay workers who are isolating following a positive test. The government now plans to add a further £546 million to the fund.
There remains some doubt as to what the remaining 59% of care providers are doing but we suspect that hundreds of thousands of careworkers are still in the terrible position of being unable to afford to isolate if they have suspected Coronavirus infection. Even when care agency bosses are given free money by the taxpayer, some are still refusing to pay their workers isolation pay. The government-backed Vivaldi study which surveyed over 9000 carehomes found that just over 14% of carehome providers paid occupational sick pay, with 79% paying just SSP and 7% claiming their workers get nothing at all when they are sick (which is illegal).
In recent months the GMB have won national deals with Larchwood and HC-One to ensure workers can isolate on full pay following a positive test.
Progress is being made but carehomes remain high risk areas for Covid-19 infection because the provision is so patchy and limited. It is not clear that careworkers are getting paid if a member of their household has symptoms or they are told to isolate by Track and Trace. It is not clear whether this has been extended to domicillary careworkers.
In Scotland and more recently in Wales, the devolved administrations have introduced very clear policies to ensure full isolation pay for all careworkers. In Northern Ireland, careworkers receive 80% wages if they have to isolate. Unlike in England, the government have set out a clear policy that all careworkers are entitled to this provision, rather than funnelling money through a convoluted voluntary scheme via local authorities and carehome bosses. Most importantly, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have made clear statements about why full isolation pay is necessary to keep carehome residents safe, while the English government has been virtually silent.
The pandemic is showing clearly that all careworkers need decent pay, terms and conditions and the whole social care system needs to be taken out of private hands and run as a democratically accountable and publically owned service.